CRANFORD - Mayor Patrick Giblin, along with Deputy Mayor Kathleen Miller Prunty, and Township Attorney Ryan Cooper, hosted a Town Hall on Tuesday, November 17 to update residents on negotiations with Hartz Mountain for the future of the 750 Walnut Avenue property.
Back in 2017, Hartz Mountain submitted an application to rezone the 750 Walnut Avenue property to build 905 apartment units with 1,775 parking spaces and two clubhouses broken down into two phases. The development would feature 139 affordable units. In June 2019, the Cranford Planning Board voted down the application. Four months later, Hartz Mountain filed a lawsuit challenging the decision.
According to the Cranford Township newsletter released on October 29, Cranford and Hartz Mountain have been engaged in productive settlement negotiations and "have made meaningful progress towards a compromise for the future development of 750 Walnut Avenue."
While Cranford has reached a settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center to satisfy the Township's third round affordable housing requirement, it has yet to be certified by the courts. The settlement, which Hartz Mountain is objecting to the courts, calls for a range of 220-300 townhouses with 45-61 of the units being deemed affordable.
A potential settlement discussed between the Township and Hartz Mountain includes splitting the 30-acre property into two 15-acre parcels. One parcel would retain the property's current commercial use with 250,000 sq. ft. of brand-new flex warehouse space. The other parcel would be developed into 250 residential apartment units with 38 (15%) deemed affordable.
Cooper mentioned that in order to make the concessions necessary, Hartz has requested the Township award a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), to which he said the Township is open to on the proposed residential parcel of the property, but Hartz has yet to propose a PILOT structure that the Township finds acceptable.
If no settlement is made between the Township and Hartz Mountain and the courts certify the settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center, the next steps in the process would be to designate 750 Walnut Avenue as an area in need of redevelopment, which has already been completed by the Township Committee, followed by condemning the property for the Township to acquire, and finally prepare a redevelopment plan and redevelopment agreement to implement the Fair Share House Center settlement with a developer.
The courts are expected to hear Cranford's Fair Share Housing plan in January 2021.